The ongoing collapse of the American economy means middle-class college grads must behave like coddled aristocratic twits and secure internships through their parents' largesse.

In industries like media, vast swaths of entry-level jobs have long been reserved for kids whose parents payed their freight, usually indirectly. Perhaps daddy invested in the property in question; mommy gave an exclusive interview; grandad let the editor's kid into his exclusive preschool. Or maybe the family just shelled out to keep their kid fed and sheltered during a lengthy unpaid gig .

But usually a scrappy outsider without rich parents could grab a toehold and quickly begin to make a living. That, the Wall Street Journal reports, is getting rarer as white-collar job-hunting comes to resemble something out of Grapes of Wrath. Among the sadder examples of pay-for-play cited in "Buying Your Kid An Internship:" "a one-week internship at a music-production company sold last month for $12,000."

The proceeds went to charity; similar donations can score internships at Rolling Stone and at Elle.

There are also placement companies like "University of Dreams," which charges $5,000 to $10,000 to get you into an (unpaid) internship at places like "fashion house Donna Karan International or public-relations shop Ruder Finn." Two months housing is included so, wow, tremendous value.

When will employers cut out the middlemen and start treating their internships as revenue streams, a la the Philadelphia Inquirer? Probably around the time the first big cluster of fashion, media and PR firms emerge from bankruptcy and realize how hard it is to make money the old-fashioned way.

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